Friday, December 04, 2020

Granny Rose

I’ve learned recently that end of life care includes the phrase “no heroic measures.” And I understand what the term means, but to me, it seems all wrong. After all, Rose’s final days, as with so many of her other days, were filled with heroism. She faced this last test with the grace, good humour, and quiet strength familiar to all who knew her. 

Throughout her long life, Rose suffered unimaginable hardship and tragedy. Yet, she did not grow embittered or hard, as so many others would have. Instead, she embraced the world with love and laughter – as if her heart had expanded to fill in and heal the places where it had been broken.

I feel so lucky to have witnessed Rose’s spirit and zest for life on those happy occasions when we would visit her, or she us. In those moments, our family felt complete. She brought us so much joy with her energy and eagerness to join every conversation, event, game, and outing. And over the last few years, she amazed us by laughing at every joke, despite being hard of hearing and dancing at every simcha, despite being barely able to walk. Rose performed miracles through her sheer determination to maximize every moment of delight that she could find.

Perhaps the highlight of our time together was getting to observe the absolutely overflowing love she had for my Dad – it seemed to radiate out of every inch of her. And in her presence, it felt as though the depths of my Dad’s being were revealed. There is so much of Rose in his gentle manner, kind soul, and sense of humour that is somehow both ever-present, yet also surprising. 

Indeed, Rose always made me laugh when I least expected it. Once, after watching my Dad kill a fly with a rolled-up newspaper, Rose grabbed my arm in mock horror and wailed, “My son’s a MURDERER!” And just a few weeks ago, she told me that she liked when Glenda, her carer, took her outside for fresh air because otherwise she would get “too stale.”  

The courage to love deeply through despair, to dance through pain, to laugh often and much, and to suffer with grace – heroic measures, every one. 

Rose was a wonder of a person and though we will miss her dearly, we are blessed with her example that the truest way to honour the dark times is by rejoicing in the light. 

And as we mourn the loss of her, there is comfort in knowing that she is now reunited with the many departed loved ones who have been waiting patiently for her on the other side.  

Friday, September 25, 2020

Granny Pat

I’ve always had trouble describing Pat to other people. I think it’s because I’ve never met anyone else quite like her. I’ve never met anyone else so absolutely stubborn, but always in the service of others. If there was something Pat could do for you, she would do it no matter what. She would spend hours on a three course meal for Friday night. She would fly across the continent for a family wedding. She would devote months to perfecting a painting for her great-granddaughters. I don’t think a selfish thought ever crossed her mind. I don’t think she actually knew how to have a selfish thought. 

But what she did know, of course, was how to make people feel loved. Because to Pat, love was in the little things. There was no gesture or moment ever too small for her to let go by. Whether it was a second helping before you asked, a phone call on a special day, or a saved crossword puzzle - she never overlooked any opportunity to demonstrate that you were on her mind and in her heart. She made you feel like the centre of her universe. 

To Pat, family was everything and she was so deeply a part of us it’s hard to imagine life without her. But she has left a lasting imprint in so many ways. I see her in the kindness of my mother. I see her in the resilience of my siblings. I see her in the strength of my uncles and the bonds of my cousins. I see her in the spirit of my nieces.  

Over the last few years, Pat told me many times that she thought the world was broken and she hoped to live long enough to see it fixed. We know that she didn’t. But perhaps we could come a little closer to healing it if we all were stubborn in the service of others. If we all remembered that love is in the little things. If we didn’t miss any opportunity to make someone else feel like the centre of our universe.

Please consider donating to the Rally 2020 for North York General Hospital 


Wednesday, April 08, 2020

The Pandemic Haggadah

1. Cleaning the House of Chametz
We’ve all been cleaning anyway. This should be easy.

2. First Cup of Wine
Congrats to those who still have wine in their homes.

3. Wash Your Hands
This is what we’ve been training for! 

4. Karpas
Dip your vegetables in saltwater to disinfect.

5. The Four Questions
How is this night different from all the other nights? IS THAT A JOKE?!

6. The Four Sons
If these children have two parents present, they are illegally gathering in a group of six.

7. The 10 Plagues
The 2020 Bingo list.

8. Dayenu
God, it’s enough already! 

9. Pesach
Smear Purell on the doorway.

10. Matzah
Crackers are a great apocalypse snack option.

11. Marror
A preview of when all that’s left in the pantry is herbs.

12. Second Cup of Wine
Lean to the left, toward a robust social safety net. 

13. Wash Your Hands
Once is not enough!

14. Charoses
Throw everything left in your kitchen in a bowl and add cinnamon.

15. Korech
Throw everything left in your kitchen in a bowl and add cinnamon and make a sandwich.

16. Dinner!
Who among us still has eggs?!?

17. Afikoman
Only hide it in/on previously sterilized surfaces.

18. Third Cup of Wine
Time to start fermenting grape juice in the bathtub.

19. Elijah
Check his temperature at the door. 

20. Fourth Cup of Wine
Only two less than the daily average.

21. Next Year in Jerusalem!
Or literally anywhere outside of our homes.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Dissertation Acknowledgments

This journey began at the University of Western Ontario where Nancy Rhoden agreed to supervise the research of an overeager undergraduate student who spoke too quickly and too much. I worked with Nancy for the next three years as she patiently taught me the foundations of historical research and writing. But of all her lessons, I am most grateful for her example that scholarly rigor is not diluted, but rather strengthened, when it is coupled with kindness. While at Western, I also benefited from Rob MacDougall's mentorship. He encouraged me to think deeply about what it means to be a historian and never tired of helping me wrestle with the tough questions of work and life. 

I first met Alan Taylor at the University of Windsor where I attended his talk in the fall of 2012. On my drive back to London, I got my first speeding ticket. While Alan should unquestionably reimburse me the $52 fine, my debt to him can never be fully repaid. He introduced me to liberty poles, taught me to sharpen my writing by saying more with less, and encouraged patience when fielding during Townball. His belief in me never (outwardly) wavered and I carried his confidence as a talisman during many nerve-wracking presentations and interviews. I am also immeasurably grateful to Elizabeth Varon whose unflagging support, perceptive suggestions, and good humor have greatly improved this project and my graduate school experience. Her blend of professionalism and compassion will provide the model of mentorship for the rest of my career. Gary Gallagher's wit, kindness, and enthusiasm have also enhanced my time at UVA. I am especially grateful that he has let me sully his pool table with my ineptitude. I also thank Brian Balogh, Joanne Freeman, and Sidney Milkis for the time, expertise, and encouragement they provided as members of my dissertation committee. I am honored by their involvement in this project. 

In UVA's History graduate program, I found some of the smartest, kindest, and funniest people I have ever known. Their friendships have enriched this project and broadened my thinking in immeasurable ways. My small victories were sweetened and my many setbacks softened because of the people with whom I could share them. Many thanks to Kathleen Berggren, Clayton "Old Fuss" Butler, Benji Cohen, Jon Cohen, Mary Draper, Erik Erlandson, Jack Furniss, Alexi Garrett, Jesse George-Nichol, Melissa Gismondi, Connor Kenaston, Alice King, Cecilia Márquez, Brian Neumann, and Chris Whitehead. In our writing group, Jack and Melissa provided generous and thoughtful readings of my work, which challenged my thinking in all of the right ways. Our weekly meetings were among the highlights of my time as ABD and the perfect model of what a scholarly community should be.

I am very grateful to Kathleen Miller for her unfailing patience, kindness, and assistance. She always had what I needed, be it information, encouragement, or commiseration. I cannot count all of the ways Kathleen eased my path to the PhD. 

Beyond UVA's History Department, a whole host of people have welcomed me into the academic community and cheered on my work and career. I hope to honor their generosity by paying it forward as best I can. Thank you to Miranda Beltzer, Charlene Boyer Lewis, Lindsay Chervinsky, Seth Cotlar, Liz Covart, James Lewis, Michael McDonnell, Paul Douglas Newman, Jason Opal, Andrew W. Robertson, Andrew M. Schocket, and Joe Stoltz. In the final year of my PhD, I formed a long-distance writing group with Kristen Beales, Jackie Beatty, and Lauren Duval. Their encouragement and ideas got me through the final stretch and it was a privilege to read their wonderful work. 

Thanks also to Rachael Bell for her longstanding friendship and support (including a trip to the Dedham Historical Society!). Rachael's unyielding commitment to live and teach for a better world inspires me every day. And to Cecily Zander whose generosity, intelligence, wit, and blazers were an essential part of my final year at UVA. I also wish to thank the ladies of the Charlottesville Women's Soccer League for welcoming me with open arms and teaching me that camaraderie and competition are two sides of the same coin. 

I am grateful for financial support from the following institutions: the American Philosophical Society, the Bankard Fund for Political Economy, the David Library of the American Revolution, the Dilworth Fund at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Jack Miller Center, the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and UVA's Corcoran Department of History, Office of the Vice President for Research, the Power, Violence, and Inequality Collective, and the Society of Fellows. Thanks also to the staff at the American Philosophical Society, the Connecticut Historical Society, the David Library of the American Revolution, the Dedham Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the National Archives, the New England Genealogical Society, the New York Historical Society, and the Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. Their warmth and expertise made my time in the archives both enjoyable and fruitful.

I am also very thankful for the excellent feedback I received at several conferences and workshops over the last few years. Thanks especially to the American Political Thought Seminar at the Newberry Library, the Early America Seminar at the International Center for Jefferson Studies, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford, and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic. Thanks also to the Nau Center for Civil War History for accepting an early republic interloper so graciously.

The biggest thanks, as ever, goes to my wonderful family. I am proud to be now called a Doctor, but proudest always to be their aunt, sister, daughter, and granddaughter. I am beyond fortunate to count my siblings, Dani, Lisa, and Asher, and my siblings-in-law, Shael and Jen, as my best friends. We express our love through laughter and their senses of humor are my panacea for all of life's bumps and bruises. I am privileged to have a pair of incredible women anchoring my family at each end. The strength of my grandmothers, Pat and Rose, and the wonder of my nieces, Hallie and Avery, keeps everything in perspective.

This is a story of ordinary people who did their best in uncertain times. I tell it in the memory of my departed relatives who did the same.

This work is dedicated with immense love and gratitude to Lynne Lurie, who is a lifelong student, and David Lurie, who devotes himself fully to all he does. They have given me everything I cherish most: a close-knit family, a happy childhood, and a love of stories. Mom and Dad, your combinations of hard work with humor and curiosity with compassion are forever my inspiration. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Best Tweets of 2018

Sorry for the clip show.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Best Tweets of 2017

Blogger didn't save half of this post, so you only get until June. The hits of 2017 just keep on coming.

Anyway, shine on, you crazy diamonds.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Political Passover

Special thanks to Rachael and Melissa for their stats and encouragement.

This year, I wanted to make Passover political.

This was the opening statement read at the start of the seder:

On Passover, we ask why this night is different from other nights. But in the current climate, it seems a more pressing question to ask is how is this year different from other years. One need not be the wise son to count the ways. So tonight, as we gather together to remember that the Jewish people were once slaves in Egypt, we thought it would be appropriate to recognize the current struggles for freedom happening in North America and around the world. We will dedicate each of the four cups of wine to a different group of people whose liberty is still limited in some way. After the blessing, one person will read a short statement before we drink that concludes with a toast for a brighter future next Passover.